1 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; my God, I put my trust in you;
How often do you think about how you will be remembered?
A friend tells me about a fellow who leads his bible study. He begins with this prayer: “Good morning, God. This is Bob. Remember me?” It’s a far cry from Cranmer, and not the way I choose to approach the throne of the almighty creator of the universe. But Bob is on to something, the same thing that the author of the psalm read in church yesterday explores (see above).
The psalmist asks about what God will remember. When I run across this psalm, I’m struck by that concept that God in divine freedom has options about how we are remembered.
If, as we affirm in our tradition, God knows the secrets of our hearts, maybe knows us better than we know ourselves, it matters a great deal what God remembers about us. It’s unnerving for me to think that God has that kind of window into my soul with all its dark and unattractive corners.
We also affirm in our tradition that God regards us, warts and all, with grace and mercy, one of the great themes of the Lenten season. The psalmist appeals to that tradition, asking God to continue to regard us with compassion and love. The psalmist asks God not to focus on the goofy (or worse) things we did in our youth (or in our advanced age), but rather to regard us through the lens of unconditional love.
What difference does that make in our life?
It means we begin with belovedness. Our foundation is God’s mercy, a gift not to be taken for granted. For that, we offer thanks, with an attitude of gratitude that animates our worship. On the basis of that grace, our lives are meant to unfold in keeping with God’s covenant (Psalm 25:9).
It means that we are called to regard our neighbors and ourselves in a new, graceful light. Let’s start with ourselves. If God practices holy amnesia (a.k.a., mercy and forgiveness) towards things we’ve done wrong in the past, we can let those things go as well, hopefully learning from them, hopefully steering away from them in the future. It’s a matter for forgiving ourselves, sometimes hard to do. In fact, we sometimes shape our identity around the recollection of things we’ve done wrong.
Then as part of our expression of gratitude to God, we are called to holy remembering and holy forgetting towards those around us. We have the choice to spend our lives remembering bad things others have done to us, polishing resentments like trophies kept in a place of prominence and high visibility. Or we can regard each other with compassion and kindness, forgiving as we have been forgiven.
This week in Lent, enjoy your forgiveness (a tagline created for a local church, written by a friend who was a successful ad guy). As a Lenten discipline, think about how you might regard others with kindness, compassion, mercy, love and forgiveness. Consider what holy remembering means for you, as you look in the spiritual rear-view mirror to see how God has acted in your life.
But also consider holy forgetting, letting go of resentment, forgiving yourself and others, knowing that, as the psalmist says, God is full of compassion and mercy. As far as the east is from the west, so has God removed our sins from us (Psalm 103:8,12).